Are external providers with in-house experience preferable?
Lisa Briese, who spent 16 years in-house, reflects on the benefits of engaging lawyers and firms that can better understand and appreciate the needs of corporate counsel.
Ms Briese – who is the executive counsel of Arena Law – said that she and what was her in-house legal team “had probably never truly considered” taking their property law practice onto an external client base.
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However, when the opportunity arose for the team to do so, they took it, and they “have been here ever since”, she told Lawyers Weekly.
Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, Ms Briese spoke about her passion for property law, noting that “what gets me out of bed in the morning is actually seeing buildings get built”.
Having spent a decade and a half in-house, she also has a strong grasp on what law departments require: in the context of her own firm, “because the team has grown from that in-house side, they’ve got a true understanding of an asset’s life cycle”.
When asked if – against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving professional services marketplace – law departments can and should be looking more seriously at external providers who have in-house experience, and thus may be better placed to understand and appreciate the nuances of what those departments need, Ms Briese said yes.
“They should definitely look towards teams that have come from in-house,” she said.
“[Former in-house lawyers] understand the deadlines. Every organisation works differently, and you’ve got to be able to understand that there [are] certain time frames that they just have to meet, and if they’re not met, then deals won’t get done.
“There is that understanding from those coming from the in-house side and over to external practice about the life cycle and commercial pressures that are placed on counsel.
“Some people won’t get paid next week if the deal isn’t done.”
Those with prior in-house experience understand those sorts of limitations that may not necessarily be understood by those just with private practice experience, Ms Briese said.
She noted that she had seen instances of firms missing “all their internal deadlines, and the deal just goes by the wayside”.
What law departments should be looking for from their external providers, she went on, is “approachability, dependability and reliability”.
Moreover, those providers have to be able to take into account not only the legal aspects of a matter but also what the commercial ramifications might be.
“There might be a legal answer, but it doesn’t necessarily get you the commercial result that you’re after at the end of the day,” she said.
“So, you need someone to advise and assist who can understand those commercial impacts, because without that, the deals just won’t proceed.”
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Lisa Briese, click below: